In between starring in heavyweight Hollywood blockbusters like this summer’s Robin Hood and chucking the odd wobbly, Russell Crowe continues to keep his feet on the ground appearing in indie flicks like 2008’s Tenderness, out now on DVD.
As a favour to the Aussie-born director’s attempt to bring Cormier’s downbeat, pessimistic novel to the screen, Crowe takes on the role of retired detective, Cristofuoro, who begins an obsessive pursuit of a teenage killer, convinced he will kill again.
Released on a technicality from a juvenile prison after killing his parents, 18-year-old Eric (Jon Foster) is sent to live with his aunt (Laura Dern). Hearing of Eric’s release on the news is 16-year-old Lori (Sophie Traub) who wants to escape from her mother’s sexually abusive boyfriend
When Eric leaves to meet a young girl who caught his eye while he was still in juvie, Lori sneaks into his car and – after a near accident – Eric reluctantly allows her to accompany him. While Eric tries to suppress the urge to kill Lori, Crowe’s determined detective is hot on Eric’s trail.
Tenderness is not your usual kind of psycho-thriller. The damaged characters are living with their pain in a broken society, a world of urban decay. They are also longing for a connection – for some kind of tenderness. Crowe’s detective wants his wife to come out of her coma; Eric wants absolution for his sins, while Lori wants to die.
Yes, this is depressing stuff. But stick with it and you will find yourself moved by the subtle performances of the actors and the darkly beautiful photography. The ending might be incredibly tragic, but very much in keeping with the author’s oeuvre.